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Music ’round the world: Program reaches out to African orphans

Courtesy of Music in the Round

Most of us have witnessed television ads asking for monetary donations to support one of countless organizations helping the underprivileged. Sometimes these organizations get overlooked, but in other cases, people take action, like right here in Columbus.

The seventh annual Music in the Round event, this year benefiting the Marafiki AIDS Orphanage in Kenya, is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday at the Via Vecchia Winery, located at 485 S. Front St.

“Marafiki,” directly translated from Swahili, means “friends.” It began in Central Ohio in 1995 and was comprised of volunteers trained by medical and pastoral care professionals. Three years later, 11 individuals traveled to Kenya and realized the needs of children orphaned by AIDS.

It was in 2005 when several organizations across Central Ohio came together and raised enough money to establish the Rafiki Farm. The purpose of the farm was to allow children to feed themselves. Before long, Rotary District No. 6690, comprised of several Central Ohio rotary clubs, was able to contribute by raising enough money to have a well built.

Erin Corrigan, the chair of Music in the Round 2012, said the children on the farm are able to achieve something amazing.

“It’s self-sustaining,” Corrigan said. “The kids do all the farming, they are able to sell produce in town, and they’re able to feed themselves. They’ve also circumvented all the infrastructure. … They’re able to take methane from cattle and use it to fuel the fire when they make food. We’ve actually got a farmer who is coming with us who is just kind of in awe of how all this stuff works.”

Now that food and water are available to the children, the next goal is to establish a music program at the orphanage. Columbus Muziki, which translates from Swahili to “music,” aims to accomplish just that.

Kirk Horn, organizer of Columbus Muziki, said their goal is to establish the Rafiki School of Music.

“There will be someone who will be someone who can teach them how to play instruments and work on basically band stuff,” Horn said. “We’ve had a lot of donated instruments and also money. We’re probably going to wind up leaving them with $10,000-$15,000 for them to use as fee money to start this music program.”

On March 6, roughly 25 people will be making the nearly 8,000-mile trek to Nairobi, Kenya, including at least two performing musicians to help kick-start the program.

Local musician Eric Nassau, who performed at Music in the Round in 2010 and will be part of the group going to Africa, said he is excited to share what he knows with the children.

“The kids are very attentive and very receptive, so we’re going to write music together, we’re going to make music together, we’re going to sing songs together — it’s going to be a really cool experience,” Nassau said.

Nassau said there might be some challenges at first, but doesn’t believe bridging the language barrier will be too difficult.

“We will probably find some common ground, like ‘Amazing Grace’ — you know, a song like that. … But I would love to be able to teach these children some of my tunes,” Nassau said.

Nassau said they will also perform a concert while they are there and will leave the kids with more than just memories.

“We’re bringing over instruments, guitars, trombones. … These kids are going to have a chance to let music express themselves after we leave,” Nassau said.

Marti Dodson, the former lead singer of Saving Jane, will be performing as one of four musicians this year at Music in the Round.

She said she anticipates a great show and is excited to help enable the children to express themselves with the instruments.

“Music is very daring and powerful,” Dodson said. “As someone who makes music and is just a fan of music, I can’t remember how many times music has come through and saved me, and I think for people in need and for people who might not have the opportunity otherwise to experience music or make music, I think it’s really important.”

Mark Hunter, a Rastafari musician who will also be performing at Music in the Round, said he understands the importance of an event like this.

“Music, for myself, being born and raised in Africa, music is the only vehicle, the only train upon which the message of Rastafari was able to get the hearts of little African boys,” Hunter said.

Tickets for Music in the Round can be purchased at musicintheround.com for $25 each. Donations can be sent at the same address for those unable to attend.

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